I am on edge during the flight from Singapore to Delhi. It is 3 days after our youngest's surgery. The return to normalcy achieved just 24 hours post surgery has now been disrupted 48 hours later. The pressurized cabin is undoubtedly the culprit. Despite expert assurances that flying would not be a factor her sinuses now weep and flood her nose and throat; her constant cough reveals a struggle to keep her upper bronchials clear as they are drenched by flowing liquid. Out of nowhere the floodgates have opened; some of the liquid carries pools of red, not brown, blood. As if this was not enough, delivered with precision timing like the punch line of a cruel joke I hear an eerie version of M-o-m and turn in response to the call. Our eldest, who had nose cauterization the same day as her now struggling sister, has now sprung a bloody nose from her treated vein. Just moments in the sky and two of our 3 are not well. Is there anything more anxiety producing then having things not right with your children? The least common denominator between all parents- the need to go to the sacred space that transcends all else where we exhaust all of our resources to become an immediate expert in a medical condition, survey masses in a day and read volumes overnight….leave no stone unturned and do whatever it takes to find the key to make our children well… all while managing our fear about the possibility we won't. I have been in that sacred space much of my time in Singapore, my skills are sharp, so in milliseconds I weigh rising up and issuing a call for medical professionals on board with performing triage on my own to assess the situation. I decide to triage first placing the plea for a doctor on nearby reserve as I sift through and survey the fluid makeup and volume of outpour.
The Singapore healthcare system had a much-welcomed culture of partnering to achieve wellness solutions so I learned a lot. I am not ready to sit for my ENT licensure or anything but I certainly could play one on TV….or on a plane. My knowledge base informs me how NOT to stop a nosebleed. Pinching the bridge of the nose, ice on the wrist, ice on the head and laying flat all do NOT work. I now know that the secret is to pinch the very bottom of the nose. You can even take just your one index finger and compress the nostril that is spewing. The vein down near the opening of the nose is usually the culprit and applying pressure for about 15 minutes is the key to make it stop. I also now know that chlorine exposure is a MAJOR cause of bloody noses in children and mine was in the pool last night. I am still lamenting over this now scar on the hours of fun, entertainment and exercise a pool delivers- it is a significant bummer. Dry air, like on airplanes and heated spaces also aggravate nasal veins. This plane is hot and dry and we have 3 hours left to this flight and frankly this all sucks. Good thing my Singapore PhD also taught me that when blood spews out of both nostrils it is likely doing so because as you hold the nose closed to stop the bloody flood gate the liquid gets forced up and goes around the nose-separating-cartilage then down and out the other nostril. That's right, those nostrils we like to think of as two separate distinct mummy passages are only separated a short way in then they join into just one hole before continuing on into your head. You can see this and in the process have at least an hour of family fun by performing a friendly flush with some special nose saline. Peak into our crib- yes, we do family flushing. Put that together with the family feet fish clean in Bangkok and I guess we rank high the weirdness scale. Weird, but with high marks in acts of family solidarity- I can live with that. The first family flush the day after all the medical procedures was actually a precious and memorable event- we even have home movies. Each of us took our turn leaning over the sink with a nozzle up one nostril squeezing liquid up our nose that quickly circled around and drained out the other nostril. It was funny as hell to watch- akin to sticking something in one ear and having it come out the other. Ah, the pleasures to be found in the simple like stupid human tricks.
Within seconds I have a plan and press the flight attendant call button. A nice man shows up dressed in the offspring of a native Indian costume and a modern day flight attendant uniform. I vomit out a psalm of the unnerved mother: children….surgeries….days ago….problem…help….too dry... make cooler….water….napkins….hurry. The flight attendant c*** his head like a golden retriever who just heard the word ball but can't seem to find it. This costumed butler of the skies clearly finds it hard to digest that within my charge are 2 children who both have had nose and throat procedures just days before this flight. After a penetrating gaze- probably an assessment of me for Stockholm Syndrome- his training to act fast wrestles the stupid out of him and he rushes to bring me my utensils of apothecary. I order him to adjust the climate and he thankfully submits to my command then returns to watch me masterfully effervesce humidity into the dry air and mop bodily fluids. I am mother, hear me roar. I inject oxygen into the water of Hong Kong to save my little girl's fish and now water into the oxygen once of Singapore but now captive above the Bay of Benghal with me in the sky. I may roar but in truth I feel anything but mighty. There is some symptom relief but low-grade worry stays with me the whole flight. Like a hamster on a wheel in a pressurized habitrail I cycle my worry. The loop always ends with India…active, open, healing wounds….you freaking idiot.
It was a civilized landing and the journey to the hotel gifted rapid recovery once the patients adjusted back to sea level. The weight of worry lifts and as it does the thought of a little self-healing occurs. I know you know just what the doctor orders. Spa treatment. Sometimes you just gotta sing it. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Spa. In no time at all I am deep in the lair of self-care…and there waiting for me is a gift. I acknowledge it and accept it with gratefulness. It is the smashing of the bounds that I have been socialized to think is necessary spa procedure. Sailing out of known waters in the sea of a flat spa landscape I find you do not fall off the edge but rather discover a brave new world. The perfunctory hair net is removed and an unabashed drenching of my head in oil commences. This act simultaneously demotes and elevates my head to treatment like any other body part. It is aggressively massaged with slippery expertise. The pain of a thousand dry head massages that pulled and caught tiny hairs delivering just 1 ounce of pleasure amidst 50 shades ;-) of pain slowly fade from view. Now on equal ground with the bulk of my flesh the artist can take my head and work it like canvas properly snapping the jagged sutures that separate the plates of my skull back into place….dig into the habitually ignored muscle end that gets attention where it originates in my back and crosses through my neck but then is oft ignored where it wraps around the whole of my head attaching to my forehead and face. Finally, my globe is given its due. There is no 2-minute limitation like the kind that accompanies the application of a conditioning treatment after a shampoo. My head has been anointed like the royal appendage that it is and given equal time to my back. Oh, India…I SO like the way you think.
An Indian head massage- you must try this Aryvedic wellness ritual…and any others you can afford. There is much to be learned from this wellness stream born of the most ancient religion on earth. Did you know to squish your ear cartilage numerous times a day? It is just like reflexology of the feet but even more accessible- you can do it just about anywhere. Did you know to make a fist and pound on your musculature morning, noon and night? Muscle punches do wonders for circulation and wellbeing. The Indian woman told me so- and she had an intense aura of credibility. The real deal- glowing with something unworldly. Indian medicine, aka Aryveda, has 8 components to it. The first four seem to me to be better left to western medicine these days although I am sure they had their place in yesteryear- they include curing diseases, pediatrics, surgery and ophthalmology. The next 4 though are applicable today and right in the wellness wheelhouse. The first of these is demonology-exorcism-psychiatry. Having time in as both healer and healee in the mental health arena I feel wholeheartedly that certain maladies require a holistic approach. Matter of fact, I feel like my Aryvedic treatment on this very day was a well-timed exorcism and kept my head from spinning around. Sometimes it offers an amazing opportunity for exploration and perspective change, but other times talk therapy just doesn't cut it and to cure our minds we are better off getting out of them. Take for example the unfortunate 1982 epidemic of koro that took place here in India. If you are not familiar with this bizarre DSM diagnosis by all means look it up. Perhaps some of the sufferers would have found their way back to wellness through dialogue and Socratic questioning, but if I were suddenly inflicted with koro I surely would opt for the soulful Indian woman to give me some healing touch- no contest. I do enjoy a good double entendre. Shenanigans aside, a vehicle to shut your mind off and have someone help you unlock the secrets of your body to access the very energy that animates it- that is Aryvedics.
In addition to treating ailments of the mind, heart and spirit there are 3 more components- potions of wellness called antidotes, elixirs and aphrodisiacs. The head massage for which I joyfully submitted myself was only one element of treatment- the means to deliver my medicine. The medicine was a customized blend of oils to help me in my journey to restore balance. In order to make this blend just right when one goes for an Aryvedic treatment there is always an assessment. You complete a questionnaire to help determine your dosha, your stereotypical set of bodily characteristics. You can be vayu (wind), pitta (fire & water), or kapha (water & earth). Different oils go with different doshas. Some of the questions are tough, like describe your pulse rate and the thickness of your blood. I was like, huh, can we please not talk about blood.
Hand in hand with the Hindu-inspired-medicine-of-balance here in India is the philosophy that suppressing natural urges is unhealthy and can lead to illness. Oh the 20-somethings that have come to spiritual India to sit with gurus and meditate then follow their urges the kumu satra way. I had met one such character in Spain. I went to her to learn how to meditate. She had renamed herself Kali after the Hindu goddess of love and talked a lot about her teachers and her time in India where she sat for 6 months in silence. I got the impression that in her world during that time of her life sex was considered just another urge like thirst or hunger. I definitely got the impression that silence did not hamper motion. Oh my. Don't fight who you are, instead learn who you are and live with it in reasonable balance and measure- especially with matters of food, sleep and sex. Words to live by.
I am here so short but already I feel peace seeping from the world around me into my being. It is not a 2-minute conditioning treatment that India offers, it is an undeniable, completely enveloping drenching in it, it permeates the air. It might just be the 5 star ambiance of the Oberoi, but I am convinced there is something so powerful here that it is impervious to walls. I am its student. Even in the streets gentleness is somehow woven into the pervasive chaos and misfortune. There is a protest we are being kept from near the government buildings. A child has been raped and the police response corrupt. The ground is fertile here for me to see the best and the worst. This place is a stew of contradictory things that should repel each other but confoundedly do not, rather blend together. My preconceived notions about many things are invalid here, even the ones that seemed so grounded. For instance, I thought that being so near to Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha, I would see devout Buddhism, orange robes and grand scale faces with I-know-a-secret wisdom. I see no such looks and am hard pressed to find a Buddhist or Buddhist Temple anywhere in India. So where does this unique brand of serenity come from, what do I call it, how can it exist in this chaos?
I set out to find the answer.